The final Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board is set – but questions remain, especially in Round 1

NFL Draft News

The very first Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board for the 2022 NFL draft should have provided some clues.

At the very top of the list was Oregon edge Kayvon Thibodeaux, followed closely by LSU cornerback Derek Stingley. Quarterbacks Sam Howell of North Carolina and Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma were next, with Texas A&M offensive “tackle” Kenyon Green filling out the top-5.

It all made so much sense back then.

Thibodeaux and Stingley were supposed to be generational talents. The scrappy Howell helped make North Carolina relevant again. As for Rattler? The Rigdon big board went out on a limb by not listing him as the top overall prospect.

Speaking of quarterbacks … if your team was in need of a franchise signal-caller, this was supposed to be the year to take one. Names like Malik Willis of Liberty (ranked No. 8), Phil Jurkovec of Boston College and J.T. Daniels of Georgia were going to be the next Lawrence-Wilson-Lance-Fields-Jones. Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder sat just outside of the first round, while USC’s Kedon Slovis was an ascending prospect.

However, it did not appear to be a great year to draft a pass rusher at first glance.

The next-highest-ranked pass rusher after Thibodeaux was Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV (No. 11 overall), followed by Purdue’s George Karlaftis (No. 18), South Carolina’s Kingsley Enagbare (No. 21), Ohio State’s Zach Harrison (No. 22) and Cincinnati’s Myjai Sanders (No. 29). USC’s Drake Jackson (No. 9) would have been the second-highest-ranked pass rusher, but he was still listed as a defensive lineman.

As for offensive tackles, Green was the highest-ranked, while North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu (No. 6) was listed as a guard and Alabama’s Evan Neal (No. 13) sat just outside the top-10. Ranked ahead of Neal at No. 7 overall? That would be Miami’s Zion Nelson.

Some predictions back then look pretty good now.

Iowa State’s Breece Hall fell just outside of the first round at No. 33 overall, meaning no running back would be ranked in the first round. Aside from Stingley, cornerbacks Ahmad Gardner of Cincinnati (No. 20) and Trent McDuffie of Washington (No. 28) still made the top-32, while Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton was the top safety. He started the draft season as the No. 10 overall prospect and finished as the No. 10 overall prospect in the final Rigdon big board.

But that was about it for the “hits” – there were far more “misses.”

Take this year’s tight end class as an example. None are considered first-round talents; the top-rated TE is Colorado State’s Trey McBride, who is ranked as the No. 51 overall prospect. But the first Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon big board included one tight end who was ranked as one of the top 20 best prospects: Texas A&M’s Jalen Wydermyer, who was ranked No. 16 overall.

Instead, Wydermyer now checks in as the No. 244 overall prospect. As for McBride’s original ranking? He was ranked No. 188 overall, one spot ahead of Minnesota edge Boye Mafe.

Tough year to figure out

The first big boards and mock drafts of the new draft season are always comical when reviewing them afterward.

But this one was particularly confounding.

Simply put, nothing went as predicted this past college football season.

Rattler was the first top prospect to fall after he lost his starting job. He’s now at South Carolina. Taking his place as the no-doubt No. 1 QB and likely top-3 pick was … no one.

Pretty soon, another anomaly started to unfold: This would be the first draft in recent memory in which there were no true “blue chippers,” those can’t-miss, generational talents. Most notable was Stingley and Thibodeaux; those two merely had “human” seasons.

In fact, this draft is starting to look a lot like the 2013 draft. Only one QB went in the first round that year, Florida State’s E.J. Manuel, who went to Buffalo with pick No. 16 overall. And only one player who touches the ball went in the top-10 that year, West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin, who went to the then-St. Louis Rams at pick No. 8 overall.

This year? Peter King recently said in Football Morning in America that this could be the first draft – ever – in which no player who touches the ball is drafted in the top-10.

Let that percolate for a bit.

Dane Brugler of The Athletic, meanwhile, said this was the most challenging draft guide he’s ever done.

More top-100 shakeups?

Even now, the “final” Rigdon big board appears far from being set.

Mere hours after it was finished, news came out that could lead to several big shakeups in the top-100.

From the latest Walter Football Hot Press reports (click here for Monday’s report and click here for Tuesday’s report):

  • Neal, OT Bernhard Raimann, Clemson WR Justyn Ross and Penn State CB Tariq Castro-Fields are off some teams’ draft boards due to medical concerns.
  • The top two safeties, Hamilton and Michigan’s Daxton Hill, have taken hits – Hamilton for his work ethic and poor Pro Day showing, Hill for allegedly conducting bad team interviews.
  • Florida State edge Jermaine Johnson could slide due to alleged character concerns.
  • Teams wonder if Florida CB Kaiir Elam is physical enough.

As for the presumed top pick in the draft? That would be Michigan edge Aidan Hutchinson.

Unless it’s Georgia pass rusher Travon Walker.

Here’s what we do know about the draft – or at least what we think we know.

  • This should be a good year to draft a pass rusher. There are 18 pass rushers ranked among the top 100 prospects and 30 who are ranked among the top 263 in the Rigdon big board. By comparison, 33 pass rushers were drafted last year, with 14 taken in the top 100. The most pass rushers to be drafted in the top 100 over the past five years was 2017, when 15 were selected and 26 were drafted overall.
  • It’s a solid, albeit unspectacular, WR class, with 11 ranked among the top 100. Overall, 28 receivers made the top 263. However, it’s a fairly top-heavy WR class, with nine ranked among the top 41 players. After Georgia’s George Pickens (No. 41), the next-highest-ranked receiver is South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert (No. 89) – who is ranked more than a full round lower.
  • Seventeen tackles made the top 263, but it’s a top-heavy class, with 10 ranked among the top-100. In other words, you better take a tackle by the third round if your team needs one.
  • The CB class has been dominated by the same trio most of the draft season (Gardner, Stingley and McDuffie), but the second-tier is also impressive, with 14 ranked in the top 100. Overall, a whopping 40 made the top 263.
  • Need an inside linebacker? Then this is the year – and Round 3 is the time – to take one. Of the nine LBs ranked in the top 105 (which takes you through the end of the third round), seven are ranked in the third-round range. None are ranked between 32 to 65. Overall, 28 LBs are ranked in the top 263.

Click here to see the Fanspeak-Jake Rigdon top 100, and click here to see the entire Rigdon big board.

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